Blog post 3:
Why are ethics important in research?
The nature of research in today’s global media is criticised due to the easy access of information. Similarly, today’s news is compared in this way. As a journalist, as much as some audiences may disagree, it is important to implement ethical practices in your work. But what are ethics in research and why do we need them?
Referred to by Weerakkody (2008, p.75) the ethical issues involved in a research process include ‘the process of conducting research, reporting of findings, analysis (of data) and publication’. Therefore, when beginning your research process as a journalist it is important to consider the ethics involved with filming, photographing, interviewing and presenting. These along with the idea addressed by Tinkler(2013) that ‘ethics are widely agreed moral principles about what is right and wrong’ will comply with the MEAA’s code of ethics which states:
When comparing this to my research hypothesis ‘how critical audiences are of news representation in 2015 by comparing data findings with this text’ it is important to look at both the participant and data as the main ethical areas as these areas are the most crucial to harming those involved. The harm may be in a way that is mental, physical or emotional. These areas must be closely monitored and if they appear to be in danger the process must automatically stop.
Source: Weerakkody, Niranjala Damayanthi 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, in Research methods for media and communications, Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand, South Melbourne, Vic., pp. 73-91
Firstly, focusing on the participant it is understood that the participant has a right to be protected by the researcher. This is the responsibility of the journalist to be aware of ‘anonymity and confidentiality, informed consent and concealment and deception’ Weerakkody (2008, p.79). An example of this as a journalist would include making sure the participant was willing to participate in the research process, was aware of the research and its intentions and had a clear idea of all the information that was going into the process. An example of a breach of this ethic identified by Media Watch in 2014 was Victorian premier Ted Baillieu had thought he was having an off-the-record conversation—with the state Political Editor of The Sunday Age, Farrah Tomazin—but without telling him, she had recorded it. This ethical consideration is important to implement in the process as the participant’s have a right and there will be regulations in place.
Secondly, there is a greater focus than just on the collection of findings it is also important to focus on the ethics of the analysis of data and the presentation. As a journalist it is important to focus on ‘objectivity and ideology, dominant paradigms, honesty and integrity and lastly the protection of the study participant’ Weerakkody (2008, p.79). An example of this in journalism would include writing without bias or prejudice, staying true to what data and information was found or said without manipulation and lastly making sure the participant approves the information being released with their name attached.
It is evident that we need ethics in research as it is a process that involves other participants, people that have the right to be protected by the researcher in order to prevent any harm that it may cause. Ethics serve a purpose in the structure of research and are important to researchers to implement as they exercise the power and should therefore be held responsible.
Tinkler, Penny 2013, ‘Ethical issues and legalities’, in Using photographs in social and historical research, SAGE, London, pp. 195-208
Weerakkody, N.D 2008, ‘Research ethics in media and communication’, Research methods and communication, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Victoria.